by David Torrey Peters
When I was six, my mother left a box of small garbage bags lying around. I found one, cut the bottom off, and used the cinch-tie at the top to make a small, crude dress. I put it on and looked at myself in the mirror. As my reflection stared back at me, a wave of well-being surged over me, sweeping away any real specifics of that moment. All that remained was a feeling of correctness, like finding just the right word to describe something: a reflection of myself as I knew myself to be, but had yet to see. I turned away from the mirror with a new sensation of beauty and lightness buoying my step. I descended the stairs to show my parents, who sat in the enclosed porch.
Passing through the kitchen, I spotted a coffee cake on the counter. Brimming with satisfaction, I felt a sudden inspiration, a desire to be generous. I pulled the coffee cake off the counter and held it in my arms before me. In my garbage bag dress, I walked into the porch and carefully placed the cake on the coffee table. Hands on my hips, I announced to my parents, who stared at me with their coffee cups in hand: “I’m a waitress!”
There was a moment’s pause, during which, but for the sparrows flitting past the windows, time appeared frozen. Then my mother shifted her glance to my father and the two of them burst out laughing. I held still, wearing only my underpants and the garbage bag, confused, because I felt beautiful, and why couldn’t they see that? The notion that I should be embarrassed crept up on me—and then with the force of a physical blow, I was. I fled the room, tripping and sliding on the makeshift hem as I went, the plastic clinging to my suddenly hot skin. “Oh, come on!” my father yelled back at me. “There’s nothing wrong with being a waiter.”
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